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Evelyn Glennie

Novel Ideas

Showcasing innovations like 'Little Women' opera is a Cabrillo music festival tradition

By Rebecca Patt

JUST WHEN YOU start to fret that orchestral music has gone to the dogs--or at the very least to the stuffy, glowering legacy of wig-wearing dead guys--along comes the 40th anniversary Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music to set you straight.

Led for the 10th year by world-renowned conductor and music director Marin Alsop, the event is one of the only summer festivals in the country dedicated to performing contemporary orchestral music. For the first two weekends in August, some 100 musicians will converge upon Santa Cruz to form the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra and perform the work of seven of today's hottest composers--five of whom will be present and participating in rehearsals.

Six of the works will be West Coast premieres, beginning with three performances of the opera Little Women, based on the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott, with music and libretto by Mark Adamo.

The thirtysomething Adamo has scored a huge success with his first opera. Since the show's commission by the Houston Grand Opera, it has spread to opera stages around the country and been broadcast nationally on both NPR and PBS.

"I think it's going to be dynamite for a cross-section of people," says Ellen Primack, the festival's executive director. "I'm thinking it's going to cross both those audiences, people who love opera and want to see it at the highest level, and people who love Louisa May Alcott."

Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning composer Christopher Rouse will be appearing at the festival for the fifth time, and Alsop has programmed an evening , "All About Rouse," that showcases four of his works. Among them is the West Coast premiere of Kabir Podavali, Rouse's tribute to the legendary Indian poet Kabir, which features a 40-minute solo in Sanskrit by soprano Valdine Anderson. Following the concert is a Talkback Session where audience members will have the opportunity to converse with Alsop, Rouse, Anderson and the musicians.

Other highlights of the show are appearances by the Kronos Quartet and Evelyn Glennie. The Kronos Quartet, one of the most famous and innovative classical ensembles in the world, will be appearing on Aug. 7, performing music from their new CD Nuevo. Scottish-born, Grammy Award-winning percussionist Glennie will be making her festival debut on Aug. 10. Glennie, who plays the marimbas barefoot, is considered a phenomenon--she is not only the world's most successful solo orchestral percussionist, but she also hasn't let the fact that she is deaf get in the way of her career.

The festival also offers a host of free events: The Cabrillo Music Art and Wine Festival on Aug. 3 and 4 will bring nonstop ethnic music and dance to Church Street in front of the Civic Center along with the wares of local craft vendors and wineries. Two free concerts are the family-oriented "A MAJOR Minor Mystery" and a performance that features the works in progress of three young composers, led by emerging conductors. All are welcome to attend open rehearsals, which give the audience a chance the see Alsop, the musicians and the composers bring the music to life. Primack says they are a great way for the uninitiated to whet their appetite for new orchestral music.

Sure to end the festivities on a high note is the grand finale concert performed at Mission San Juan Bautista, featuring the works of composers Thea Musgrave, Michael Daugherty and John Corigliano performed by Evelyn Glennie and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra.

For more information on the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, go to www.cabrillomusic.org. For tickets, call 420.5260.

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From the July 10-17, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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